jet pack new zealand

New Zealand Inventions Shaping The World As We Know It

You’d be surprised to find out that apart from a landscape that sweeps you off your feet, New Zealand also boasts an impressive number of inventions that make the country a top contender in the field of innovation.

When I finally got to visit New Zealand, it was like a dream come true. For so long, I’ve been wanting the chance to drive around the South Island, hike for countless days and enjoy the peace and quiet right in the heart of a natural spectacle. New Zealand really is that secluded destination where you can meditate outdoors without being disturbed. My favourite place in New Zealand was the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. Together with my husband, we hiked it and enjoyed some of the most spectacular sights of beautiful sandy beaches, lush forests and rugged terrain. We also loved how welcoming and talkative the New Zealand locals were towards us. They didn’t treat us like foreigners, but like best friends who are interested in their ways of life. We appreciated how everyone was keen to show us the best of their country, how everyone was so excited to tell us their stories. New Zealand really is a magical place. – Cory, You Could Travel

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1. Zorbing

Photo credit: Tom Coates

Year: 1994

Creators: Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers

Where: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, NZ

Zorbing is a recreational activity in which adrenaline junkies climb inside giant transparent plastic balls and roll down steep hills. This sport can be practised on flat surfaces, hills with a soft inclination or even better, on water.

Wondering where you can go zorbing around New Zealand? Located on the North Island, Rotorua is a city that abounds in these types of activities. Zorb or OGO Rotorua will offer you an amazing time, a lot of fun and priceless memories.

When we toured the North Island of New Zealand as a family in a camper van, it was the beauty of the country that immediately struck us. The landscape of the North Island looks so playful with its undulating hills and haphazardly placed boulders. Roadside plants are not just mere shrubs, they look as if they have been placed there for a reason, creating the illusion of one big Garden Eden. What we loved most about the region that we visited were the geothermal areas – the bubbling mud pools, the colourful silicone terraces, the exploding geysers, the unique fauna, the sulphur smells. For a true Kiwi experience you need to meet the locals of course, and I guess the best people to talk to are the indigenous Maoris who are great storytellers and wonderful hosts. Whakarewarewa Cultural Village in Rotorua is a great way to start! – Silke, Happiness and Things

2. Bungee Jumping

Photo credit: Kamil Ghais

Year: 1980s

Creator: AJ Hackett

Where: Auckland, NZ

With some of the best views to cascade into, there is really no surprise that New Zealanders were the first to come up with this extreme sport.

The madness started in the ’80s after A.J. Hackett watched several videos of the “Dangerous Sports Club,” footage that featured a group of people developing and experimenting with many of today’s extreme sports.

Bungee jumping was one of them and, after teaming up with Henry van Asch, a complex study around the resistance of bungee ropes was initiated. Today, bungee jumping in New Zealand is a bucket list item for every adventurer.

Whether you’re wandering through Auckland or Queenstown, AJ Hackett Bungy is guaranteed to provide you with a thrilling experience.

Are you somewhere in between these two locations? Smash your fear of heights with Taupo Bungy!

3. The Jet Boat

jet boat
Photo credit: Ash Egan

Year: 1954

Inventor: William Hamilton

Where: Canterbury, NZ

From an early age, William Hamilton dreamed of being able to explore New Zealand’s waters in an effortless, but thrilling manner.

In 1954 he managed to create the first jet boat that would leave out the propeller. It was a historic moment in the history of New Zealand, as the Hamilton Jet brand became a leader in the market.

I lived in NZ for ten years and have a Kiwi passport. Some of my best friends are Kiwis and I love them dearly. They’re unpretentious, genuinely friendly and charmingly offbeat. New Zealand means endless space, stunning scenery and friendly, laid back people. I love the area around Nelson and towards Abel Tasman National Park. Everywhere in New Zealand is relaxed but the area around Motueka has a hippy vibe with quirky people and full moon parties. The seafood is excellent all over NZ and you’ll definitely find some great seafood round these parts too. – Annabel, Get in the Hot Spot

4. Jogging

Photo credit: Joshua Sortino

Year: 1960s

Inventor: Arthur Lydiard

Where: Auckland, NZ

Used by millions of people in the world for body strengthening and increasing physical endurance by running with a constant speed for longer periods of time, jogging was first pioneered by coach Arthur Lydiard at the beginning of the 1960s, in New Zealand.

Shortly after, Bill Bowerman joined Lydiard’s training system and managed to expand the technique all the way to the United States.

Today, the Lydiard Foundation provides structured courses and training for all jogging lovers.

Like most people, when I think of New Zealand, I think of its breathtaking natural beauty. My four most memorable days were spent hiking the 37-mile Kepler Track. Although it was challenging, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I hiked by myself during the days, and hung out with friendly locals and tourists in the huts at night. It’s certainly something I’ll never forget! – Susan, Susan Shain

5. The Jet Pack

jet pack
Photo credit: martinjetpack

Year: 1998

Inventor: Glenn Martin

Where: Christchurch, NZ

In a small garage, sometime in the ’80s, Glenn Neal Martin was just starting a project that would take more than 30 years to complete: the jet pack.

His dream? To revolutionise the way in which the world perceives flying.

After countless failures, shifted plans and changes of perspective, Martin managed to see his dream come true in 1998, when his jet pack was just starting to be sold to other companies.

10 years later, his company, Martin Jetpack, was founded and, in 2013, Prototype 12 was officially authorised by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority.

6. The Hobbiton

Photo credit: Kiwi Tom

Year: 1999

Inventor: Peter Jackson

Where: Matamata, NZ

Continuing on with our New Zealand inventions, how could we not arrive on the set of the famous Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

The Hobbiton is that heavenly place our beloved Frodo and Sam used to call The Shire. Film director Peter Jackson, a New Zealander, managed to emphasise the beauty of his land, urging the whole world to visit it.

A two-hour tour will show you the whole movie set. Next, you can rest at the Green Dragon Inn or buy those souvenirs every true Lord Of The Rings lover should have.

7. Nuclear Physics

nuclear physics
Photo credit: Gøril T

Year: 1902

Inventor: Ernest Rutherford

Where: Cambridge, UK

Known as the greatest experimentalist since Michael Faraday, or as the father of nuclear physics, New Zealander Ernest Rutherford started working in 1902 on a theory regarding splitting atoms.

Up until then, it was believed that atoms were the smallest particles in the universe, but this New Zealander proved otherwise and, in 1908 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

8. The Disposable Hypodermic Syringe

Photo credit: Andres Rueda

Year: 1956

Inventor: Colin Murdoch

Where: Timaru, New Zealand

How would the medical world look today without this crucial invention?

Fortunately, Colin Murdoch, a pharmacist and veterinarian concerned about the increased chances of infection caused by the reuse of syringes, came up with a new concept: the plastic reusable syringe that would replace the ones made of glass.

One of New Zealand’s most outstanding inventions was initially held off due to lack of funding, but after a few years, the researcher was granted with the appropriate resources, thus managing to finish this project that would change the world.

9. Hand Vacuum Pump

Photo credit: FoodSaver

Year: mid-1960s

Inventor: Norma McCulloh

Where: Manawatū

While working for a company that manufactured refrigerators, Norma McCulloh started to show a genuine interest in freezing food using plastic bags. Her main challenge was to do it without leaving in any air bubbles.

So, she patented the vacuum freezing pump, a cheap alternative for the everyday housewife. Soon after she started her own business, McCulloh Products. Her book, The Deep Freeze Cookery Book sold over 200,000 copies and helped her quickly become an authority in the field.

10. The Spiral Hair Pin

Photo credit: claire484.t21
Photo credit: claire484.t21

Year: 1899

Inventor: Ernest Godward

After coming up with some of the most varied inventions, from the eggbeater to a burglar-proof window to a new type of hair curler, in 1899 Ernest Godward patented the spiral hairpin.

It was one of New Zealand’s simplest inventions, but it resulted in an overwhelming success in 1902 when an American company offered to buy the product for £20,000. As a result, Godward’s company, New Inventions Co Ltd, was featured on the New Zealand stock exchange.

11. Pavlova Cake

Photo credit: Merle ja Joonas

Year: 1920s

Inventor: Unknown

Where: Specific location unknown

Named after the famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, the Pavlova cake is the cause of many heated debates between New Zealand and Australia, each claiming that the dessert belongs to their heritage.

Ultimately, Oxford Dictionary decided to shed some light and declared that Pavlova cake is a meringue-based dessert whose origins are in New Zealand.

12. Beef Wellington

Photo credit: Stuart Hamilton

Year: 1815

Inventor: Unknown

Where: Wellington, NZ

Although there are several theories surrounding the context in which this delicious meal was first introduced to the world, one thing is certain: its origins are deeply rooted in New Zealand.

The most famous theory is that the dish was specially created for the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. It is said that serving beef, pastry and truffles with a glass of wine was his thing, so after defeating Napoleon at Waterloo, his henchmen added one more element to the celebration feast: beef wellington.

13. Lamington Cake

Photo credit: Lauren O’Grady

Year: 1895

Inventor: A.R. Levin

Where: Wellington

With the potential of causing an even bigger controversy than pavlova cake already did, food historians have managed to trace back the roots of the famous Lamington dessert.

According to a New Zealand newspaper, it was originally named Wellington and was served during Lord Lamington’s visit to the city in 1895. The article provides an accurate description of a sponge looking dessert sprinkled with coconut, much resembling New Zealand’s snowy mountains.

14. The Fergburger

Photo credit: Ingjye Huang

Year: 2001

Inventor: Anthony Smith

Where: Queenstown, NZ

With 30 types of burgers featured on their menu, from common ones to more exotic options, over the past 15 years Fergburger has become a trademark and one of New Zealand’s finest inventions. What started out in a small garage on Cow Lane has now become a main attraction for anyone who visits Queenstown.

Fancy a lamb or a cod burger? Maybe a venison burger will fulfill your appetite. Either way, you are in for a unique heavenly treat!

I stayed at Loch Vista near Te Anau – an amazing bed and breakfast run by local husband and wife team Guy and Pam Turnbull. Guy and Pam were the most incredible hosts – whether it was a restaurant recommendation, where to go to take great photos, or what sights I should visit, I was able to get the most out of my short three night stay thanks to their expertise. It was like having a real life Lonely Planet concierge – Pam even drove me to the wedding I was there for. It was only a two-minute drive, but anyone who helps save my stiletto-clad feed is a friend for life. – Laura, This Island Life

15. Instant Coffee

Photo credit: Andrew Gustar

Year: 1890

Inventor: David Strang

Where: Invercargill, NZ

Although instant coffee had been tested at first in the form of a cake during the American Civil War, in 1890, New Zealander David Strang was the one who patented this magic drink.

Japan worked on perfecting its method of preparation and from there on, it became an essential drink that would boost soldiers up during the First World War.

“A cup of George”, as they would call it, quickly became a powerful source of energy for fighting exhaustion.

16. McLaren Cars

Photo credit: Drew Osumi

Year: 1963

Inventor: Bruce McLaren

Where: Auckland, NZ

McLaren was not only an outstanding driver but also an engineer, creating and the testing the cars he built himself.

A lifelong passion that goes back to childhood, McLaren’s passion began by closely observing the cars coming into his father’s shop. In 1966, McLaren’s first car went racing and marked the beginning of four successful years that would echo his achievements around the world.

Unfortunately, in 1970 he passed away in a car accident.

17. Russell Crowe

Photo credit: Ásta

Year: 1964

Profession: Actor, musician, producer and director

Where: Auckland, NZ

Russell Crowe started his career as a musician in Auckland in the early 80s, managing to release several singles and hosting a few local events that brought him some notoriety.

However, in 2000 he hit the jackpot after filming The Gladiator, where he starred as the Roman general, Maximus Decimus Meridius. The role won him the Academy Award for Best Actor along with millions of fans.

Born a New Zealander, he then moved to Australia at 21 and, shortly after, to North America.

My experience traveling in New Zealand is different than most, as I am a Kiwi. Although I haven’t lived in New Zealand for over 12 years, it is a country that I hold dear to my heart. It constantly surprises me with the incredibly vivid colors of nature that can be found there, the awesome food (try anything feijoa!), and the friendliness of Kiwis. I feel very lucky to belong to such a special place. – Katie, The World on My Necklace

18. Mountain Buggy

A modern example of a mountain buggy. Photo credit: Serge Segal
A modern example of a mountain buggy. Photo credit: Serge Segal

Year: 1992

Inventor: Allan Croad

Where: Wainuiomata, NZ

After seeing a picture in an American magazine of a three-wheeled buggy in 1992, Allan Croad came up with the genius idea of creating a buggy that could be used on any types of roads.

He started building a four-wheeled buggy using a child car seat and an old golf trundler. Helped by a few engineers, the prototype was then improved, resulting in a business that lives today and includes exporting buggies to the whole world.

19. The Electric Fence

electric fence
Photo credit: Emil Johansson

Year: 1936-1937

Inventor: Bill Gallagher

Where: Hamilton, NZ

Bill Gallagher used an application closely related to the electric fence in order to control livestock. His device was built from a car ignition trembler coil set and used for the purpose of impeding his horse to scratch his nearby car.

Later in 1962, another New Zealander, Doug Phillips, patented the non-shortable electric fence that would function based on a capacitor discharge and which had a range of action from several hundred meters all the way to 35km.

By 1964, this version was already being manufactured by Plastic Products, a company headquartered in New Zealand.

20. Contiki Tours


Year: 1962

Inventor: John Anderson

Where: London, UK

Another of New Zealand’s great inventions changed the world of travel as we know it.

After arriving in London on a sunny spring afternoon, John Anderson had one idea in mind – to travel the world for free with a group. He placed a deposit for a small bus and managed to gather a few people. They started a trip around Europe and tried to sell the bus at the end of the journey.

Unfortunately, Anderson was unable to do so but didn’t give up and the following spring he started to advertise again the travel offer.

By the time summer came, 2 trips for groups of people with ages between 19 and 29 had already been scheduled. In 1962, Contiki Tours were officially pioneered with one clear target audience: young people.

The company name is yet another proof of its New Zealand origins: con stands for continent, while tiki is the native Maori word for good luck charm.

New Zealand was a dream destination for us. The unbelievable landscapes, the remoteness, the hikes, the culture. Just to name a few things. All of this really appealed to us and having traveled to many countries around the world, New Zealand still is to this day one of the most incredible places we had the chance to visit. After traveling in New Zealand, it’s quite difficult to pick one single favorite place but, if we had to highlight a few, we would pick Milford Sound, Abel Tasman National Park, and Tongariro National Park. Yet there’s so much more to see and explore! We had the chance to interact with quite a few locals and engage in some personal conversations while staying at some B&Bs throughout the country, and because we’re from Portugal, they were very curious about why someone would travel to the very opposite side of the world just to see their country. We thoroughly enjoyed how relaxed and laid back New Zealanders are. – Hugo, Breathe with Us

Antonia is a passionate writer and an avid reader. Eat well, travel often - are some of the words she lives by. When she's not writing or reading, she loves getting out in nature, hiking or losing herself in unknown cities.

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